Poetry Playtime

Because I Wanted Jam


I had thought

the gray, overcast morning

would grant me solitude

in the field.


But I forgot

how short the season is,

the strawberries being

generous but fleeting —

like a swarm of gnats that

skirts their course as humans approach.


And I forgot

how early the young ones rise:

they’ve been up for hours already.

They’re past second breakfast

and have burned through screen time.


And they’re all here with me

in the warming field.

Asking is this one ripe

and being told

no not the white tipped ones


And being called to over and over

Nina. Nina. Nina come here!

The incessant voice of a mother bird trying to

push the little ones deeper into the nest

on fledging day.

WILL’S WORDS: Interview with children’s author Jane Sutcliffe

Welcome today to author Jane Sutcliffe, who, as luck would have it, graciously agreed to answer some questions about writing for children. Jane has written over two dozen non-fiction books for young readers, and is an experienced presenter. Her school visit … Continue reading

I’m Still Thinking of You

I’m Thinking Of You

Today marks the three year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Last year, I worked through my sadness by writing a post titled “I’m Thinking Of You.” Today those words are on a field trip over on Mamalode.com. Won’t you please come have a look, and share the message?

I’m Thinking Of You

Like me, you probably have friends and family that are so often on your mind and heart that you can have whole conversations with them without ever picking up the phone. I truly believe there are more positive vibes in this world than negative events.

To anyone struggling with sadness and challenges right now: You are not alone. You’d be surprised how many people are thinking of you right now.

And to the families of Newtown: We’re thinking of you not only today,  but always.



Interested in turning your good thoughts into positive action? Click the links below to learn more.

Everytown for Gun Safety

“The reasons for gun violence are complex, but real change on a few issues could save lives.”

Text “ENOUGH” to 64433

Sandy Hook Promise

“I promise to do all I can to protect children from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, schools and communities.”

Sign their petition to pass mental health reform here.

26 ACTS – Changing the World one kind act at a time

“Do one act of kindness for each of the lives taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

“Every action, no matter how small, helps us build safer communities and a brighter future. Together, we can end gun violence.”

Sponsoring Orange Walks to honor all of the lives taken by gun violence in America, and show just how determined we are to end it.

Other actions:

Consider writing your representatives in government to voice your concerns. Contact information is easy to find here:


Congressional Representatives




Book Bravo: The Meaning of Maggie


Have you ever wondered what Clementine, Ramona, or Junie B. would be like in middle school? I hope they would stay spunky and turn out a lot like Maggie Mayfield, the main character in Megan Jean Sovern’s THE MEANING OF MAGGIE (Chronicle Books, 2014). In any case, I know they’d be friends with her!

Maggie is someone I was rooting for from the minute she wished her hospitalized dad would wake up so they could split a Little Debbie. (She’s willing to eat the whole thing herself, but she’d rather share). Then, I just – plop – fell in love with her when she was describing how amazing her first day of sixth grade was, including this:

“And lunch was the best because I got a whole table to myself so I spread out my notebooks and went to town on a stack of syllabi.”

She’s quirky, she doesn’t fit in, and she doesn’t care! She has much bigger things on her mind, such as her report on Sandra Day O’Connor, and her new friend, Clyde, “the most beautiful boy I’d ever seen.”

Underneath this layered, interesting character is a story of family bonds that are tested by parental illness.  From the jacket flap:

Eleven years old. The beginning of everything!

For Maggie Mayfield, turning eleven means she’s one year closer to college. One year closer to voting. And one year closer to getting a tattoo. It’s time for her to pull herself up by her bootstraps (the family motto) and think about more than after school snacks and why her older sisters are too hot for their own good. Because something mysterious is going on with her cool dude Dad, whose legs have permanently fallen asleep, and Maggie is going to find out exactly what the problem is and fix it. After all, nothing’s impossible when you’re future president of the United States of America, fifth grade science fair champion, and a shareholder in Coca-Cola, right?

Maggie’s position as youngest child and her own personality leave her somewhat oblivious to the true reality of her dad’s worsening struggle with multiple sclerosis. She doesn’t have much time for her “hot, but not on a school night” older sisters, Layla and Tiffany, but we as readers can see how they  help shelter her from their dad’s illness and mom’s return to work.

This is a serious book on a difficult topic, but the author makes you laugh out loud along the way. Maggie’s inner dialogue, highlighted by footnotes, made me feel like I was visiting with a real kid every time I picked up the book.  And there is a clever connection at the ending, which made this a “clutch it in your arms and sigh when you finish reading it” kind of book for me.  I recommend this book for kids in grades 5-7 ish, (or anyone who loves realistic middle grade novels.) It will  be especially meaningful to readers who have been touched by MS. Ultimately, the unpredictable and relentless nature of the disease is woven into a story of strength and hope.

Don’t miss MAGGIE!

*Special thanks to  Alyson Beecher and her wonderful book-based blog, Kid Lit Frenzy, for offering a copy of TMOM as a prize via Chronicle Books.*



Recipe for an End-of-Year School Concert


BandConcertEnd-of-Year School Concert:

Take one packed parking lot. Add a semi-legal parking space and a giant puddle. When shoes are properly muddied, dodge other frantic cars and head to the steaming hot auditorium.

Mix in one part little kid sweat smell, one part high-pitched yelps, and three parts exuberant excitement.

Carefully fold in a clean, pressed, white shirt and dark pants. Then untuck the shirt, wrinkle it, and drizzle some syrup on it.

Walk up and down the aisles until you find a wedge of seat you can balance on. Squeeze in. Fan self liberally with floppy program.

At this point you have the option of the following add-ins: screeching violins and/or microphone feedback, honking clarinets, almost-on-pitch horns, slightly off beat drums, one-measure-behind bells, unintelligible song announcements.

Once you have all this rolling at a slow boil, add in a front-row-hold-up-my-giant-Ipad-to-record-this parent. Have that parent stand up and sit down at unexpected intervals. Make sure their Ipad obscures the vision of almost everyone behind them.

For extra flavor, you can sprinkle in a few younger siblings who pop out of seats and walk back and forth in front of your row. This should happen at least four times. Stage-whispering and crinkly snack wrappers are a nice touch.

If your concert now has a slightly sour taste to it, scan the risers for your child. A smile and wave will result in a much more palatable blend. The blowing of a kiss will bring the sweetness to the next level.

Now add in one extremely talented choral director, a spirited strings teacher, and a rock-star bandleader. Shake them until they are fatigued but still smiling.

Your mix is now ready for the oven. As it bakes, the smells will waft over you and a sense of pride in what has been produced will well inside you. Clap loudly when done.

For a final garnish, add the tears of a sentimental sap who cannot hear children’s voices raised in song without emoting.

Leftovers should be served immediately to any parental unit unable to partake in the original dish.

During clean up, if you accidentally nick the side of the car of that front row parent, do not leave a note. They will be too busy never watching their recording to notice it.



Gifting the Giver

My family has been taking a lot of personality tests lately.   Guided by the kids and some silly online quizzes, I now know which Simpsons, Big Bang Theory, Downton Abbey, and Hunger Games character I am.  I also know which Disney Princess I most emulate.  My daughter, who is…headstrong…keeps trying to retake the quizzes and manipulate them to get the results she wants.  But the facts don’t lie, and she’s always rerouted to her true persona.

The truth is, most people have a personality type that they gravitate to.  This idea is the basis for Veronica Roth’s exciting dystopian YA novel, DIVERGENT (Katherine Tegen Books, May 2011).

Divergent hc c(2)

From Veronica Roth’s website:

“In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.”

Yes, there’s a quiz for that.  I took it, and found out that in Roth’s future world, I would be in Abnegation.  No surprise.  My family also fell along their party lines.  (Pretty glad we don’t live in that society, as factions don’t mix, and I’d miss them!).

I’m fairly sure if we were all sorted today, Abnegation would be full of a lot of mothers.  For most moms, giving selflessly feels natural, and right.  It’s just what we moms do.  But as the book points out, it can be dangerous to be only one thing, and to have only one way of living.  If we are truly selfless all of the time, we’re going to end up in a big pile of dusty cranky resentment.

This year I’ve challenged myself to expand my giving, but just as importantly, to be more giving to myself.  The three categories I’m working on are:

Big Ways to Give

This one includes things like monetary gifts, reaching beyond our country’s borders, and giving my time more freely.

Little Ways to Give

This is the one that’s easiest and I’m having the most fun with.  This category is includes anything free, like smiling at a scowling person, or watering the plants in a household overrun by twin one-year-olds.

Giving to self

Okay, maybe this one is the most fun.  You just have to get over that initial twinge of guilt.  With practice, I am finding out that focusing on this category makes me much more likely to be able to participate in the Big and Little gives. (I know, duh.)

DIVERGENT is a great reminder that it’s dangerous to be just one thing.  We all have the capacity to be intelligent, selfless, peaceful, brave, and honest. But if we’re always giving to others, it will be very hard to find that balance.   So, for anyone waiting for a sign from the universe to take that class, that weekend away, that evening for yourself…this is it!  Go for it!  The people you care for will be better for it, and so will you.